“Colossal Confrontation” Set for Friday Night’s Lightning 50
In the words of Speedway 660’s voice Wade Wilson, we have a “colossal confrontation” brewing in the Lightning class for Tim Hortons at the Airport Night.
Brewing, coffee, Tim Hortons? Yes, I went there.
After last week’s stumble by point leader Scott Thibodeau, we have a four horse race for the Four Cylinder championship at Scotia Speedworld, heading into the back end of the Twin 50s for the season.
It’s a big race with big stakes, that takes a big toll on the cars with a potential big reward on the other side for one of our four title contenders.
Mike Brown, who won on Opening Day back in May, now occupies the point lead. Brown’s point lead is a slim three points on “Rational” Richard Patrick, with Thibodeau one point behind Patrick for second. Deven Smith is eight points back of Brown in fourth, making this a four way race for the championship with two races to go.
Brown knows what it feels like to lose a championship. Let’s call a spade a spade, nobody was catching Jorden Smith in 2012, but it was Brown who entered the final few races in second before BJ Nicholson surpassed the #118 to finish second in the standings that year by four points.
Why do I bring it up this way? Some say you have to lose a championship to know what it really means to win one. Matthew Warren lost a close battle with Dave Matthews by one point in the Thunder class in 2011 before winning the title from Matthews in 2013. Could this be Brown’s year?
Brown has worked the hardest of any of the championship contenders in the last five races, scoring 518 points in the last five events dating back to the last 50 lapper in July. For comparison, Smith has 482 points in that time, Thibodeau has 474 and Patrick at 473. If Brown keeps that up over the next two races, he will be tough to beat.
While the championship battle is one to watch in the Lightning class, when you look at those last five races, there is one driver who has even outscored Brown in points. It should come as no surprise that Richie Moore has been on a hot streak, winning two of the last three races and scoring 521 points in the last five races (an average of 104 points a show). If not for mechanical issues early in this season, it would have been a five way battle and while 40 points back keeps him in mathematical contention for the championship, he will need some help from each of the top four to put him in the mix.
Of note when looking at the last five race stat category, Darrell Sullivan (481 points) and “Big Daddy” Kenny Hopper” (474 points) have outscored at least one of the championship contenders in the last five races cumulative. Sure, might not be a surprise on the #188, Sullivan finally broke through to victory lane in that five race stretch, but Hopper has been consistent, especially with sixth and third place finishes in the last two weeks. Watch for big things from Big Daddy to close off the season.
This is the 50 though, anything can happen. We saw overheating issues with some of the top runners in the last extended feature for the Lightning cars, including Thibodeau. This is a big race with big championship implications, you best believe the top four will be on their game for Friday night.
Speaking of blowing things up in a 50 lap race, the Coors Light Trucks are back this week.
Let’s hope the likes of Chris Ainsworth, “The Animal” Jeff Campbell, “The Legend” Cy Harvey, Adam Carter, Kevin Clark Jr and Jason Fenton and anyone else that may have had an issue mechanically with their trucks are back this week. The Truck class has put on some of the best racing all season and while Dan Smith has a comfy lead up front, no lead is safe.
Just ask Cole Butcher.
While Butcher can pretty much cruise in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends with a 60 point lead, an incident earlier in the season had him losing over two dozen points in one race. Again, not “safe” is the lead but it is pretty comfortable right now for the driver of the #5 Atlantic Tiltload Ford with two to go.
The battle for second in the class though is expected to go down to the wire.
Nicholas Naugle, leading Tim Hortons at the Airport Rookie, has the second place spot by fifteen points. That is, fifteen points over fifth place driver, who drives the #15 car. Between Naugle and Jeff Atkinson sit Jeff Cruickshank and Emily Meehan, each of whom have had second place at one point this season and in the case of Meehan, she has a feature win this season. The rookie has been pretty good under pressure this season, heck, he’s co-leading the Maritime League of Legends Tour with one race to go, but the question is how he will handle trying to take second place for himself in the last two racers in the Strictly Hydraulics Legends class.
Adam Meehan’s win last Friday was big in many ways. For what it’s worth, it locked him into the 2015 INEX Bandolero Nationals and it showed his veteran prowess as he took the lead away from Braden Langille as the two snaked through lapped traffic.
The downside? Meehan only gained one point on Langille in the standings, making it 11 points heading into Friday night’s race.
The good news for the two may be the fact that Cole Tanner was seventh on Friday night. Yes, I know, 31 points isn’t impossible to make up in two races, especially with us seeing more than 15 Bandoleros showing up each week, but Tanner will need to re-kindle some of that early season magic when he won two features.
However it goes, it will be a battle down to the wire as Langille tries to lock up his first championship and Meehan tries for his second consecutive championship before moving up to the Legend class in 2015.
Mentioned the car count earlier for this class and will say it is great to see it growing, especially with a lot of young kids getting involved in the sport. We saw Owen Mahar make his debut last week, son of Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour veteran and former Legends champion Daryl Mahar. He, along with kids like Danny Chisholm, Nathan Singer, Colton Noble, Nathan Langille and Austin MacDonald, who have just entered our sport in the last year and change, are the future of our sport. They will be the one carrying the torch in the next few years in this class and hopefully up through the ranks. Out of this class, we could see the next Dylan Blenkhorn, Brad Eddy, Cole Boudreau or Cole Butcher that will be the ones turning heads in coming season. It’s so great to see!
Speaking of one of those kids, DJ Casey made a huge gain last Friday in the Dartmouth Dodge Sportsman Series after an uncharacteristic 12th place finish from point leader Darren Wallage. Wallage, who is typically really tough to beat coming down to the finish, now only has nine points to play with between he and the 2006 Bandolero champion with two point paying races to go. If that wasn’t enough, Harry Ross White is 12 points behind with two races to go. These three are set to put on the show heading to the finish.
Aaron Boutilier struggled with apparent mechanical problems on Friday and lost ground to the top three and sits fourth, 40 points behind Wallage. Like I’ve said with previous divisions here, it’s not impossible for Boutilier to come from behind for his second championship at the Speedworld, but it is improbable if he can do it. Then again, he came from behind last year on the last lap to win the NAPA Sportsman Series at Riverside. It can be done!
The battle for fifth in the division had some fuel thrown on the fire last week, with Brentley Pirri moving to the fifth place spot. Pirri led laps last week and finished third en route to the move up the standings and is now three points up on Fred Schofield for the spot. Alex Johnson, who slid across the line last week, is only nine points out of the fifth place spot he has occupied most of this season. With some luck on their side, Travis Roma, Tony Leonard and Pete Miller could also move up the standings rankings in the final few weeks.
It is exciting time to be a fan at Scotia Speedworld, and hopefully you tell your friends and family about the awesome racing that is going on, and that there are only two weeks left of this season. Better yet, get them in the car this Friday and bring them to the Speedworld and get in the gate for $20 a carload! You are not going to beat the admission price anywhere in Atlantic Canada when it comes to value on a stock car show. With the racing we’ve seen the last few weeks, you are sure to get your entertainment value this weekend!
Hope to see everyone out at the track, this is going to be a huge card in many ways on Friday.
Until next time, keep the hammer down and we’ll see you at the track.
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